What is a vaginal yeast infection?
Seventy-five percent of women are likely to have at least one yeast infection during their lifetime; nearly half have two or more. Vaginal yeast infections are the second most common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge in the United States (the first is bacterial vaginosis).
A vaginal yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, is a common condition. A healthy vagina contains bacteria and some yeast cells. But when the balance of bacteria and yeast changes, the yeast cells can multiply. This causes itching, swelling, and irritation.
Treating a vaginal yeast infection can relieve symptoms within a few days. In more severe cases, it may take longer. Vaginal yeast infections aren’t considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), commonly known as sexually transmitted disease (STD). Sexual contact can spread it, but women who aren’t sexually active can also get them.
What causes vaginal yeast infections?
The loss of chemical balance in your vagina can cause candida to multiply. This can happen for a lot of reasons, including:
- When you take an antibiotic medication that’s treating an infection of any type—a urinary tract infection (UTI) is one example. While treating this infection, good bacteria in the vagina is killed. This good bacteria was responsible for keeping the yeast in check. Without it, the balance is thrown off, leading to a yeast infection.
- During pregnancy and while using hormonal contraceptives (birth control). Your hormones can be all over the charts during pregnancy. This change in your hormones can disrupt the balance of candida in the vagina.
- If you have diabetes. When you have diabetes, there is too much sugar in your urine and the vagina is impacted by this surplus of sugar.
- Having a weakened immune system. If you have a disease, like HIV or AIDS, your medications can suppress your immune system.
Can A Man Give A Woman Yeast Infection?
The answer is not a straight forward one, studies indicate that about 15 percent of men who engage in unprotected vaginal intercourse with women go on to develop a penile yeast infection. However, it is unclear whether women experience the same level of risk. If you believe you have a yeast infection, tell any active or recent sexual partners so they can seek treatment.
According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan Health System researchers, the presence of yeast in male sex partners do not make women more prone to recurrent yeast infections. Certain sexual activities, however, were linked to increased risk of recurrent yeast infections in women, according to the study.
Many physicians, and many women, believe that women get recurrent yeast infections because their partner passes the yeast back to them during intercourse. This study refutes that belief,” says study author Barbara Reed, M.D., M.S.P.H., professor of Family Medicine at the U-M Medical School. “This study suggests the risk for recurrent infections is related to something else – perhaps the woman’s immune response to the yeast.”
Generally, yeast infections are not considered sexually transmitted infections (STIs) because most yeast infections are not transmitted from person to person and they can occur in people who have never had sex. Sexual intercourse may interfere with yeast infection treatment, and condoms may be damaged by yeast infection medication.
What are the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection?
There are several tell-tale signs of a vaginal yeast infection. These symptoms can include:
- An itchy sensation in the vagina and vulva.
- A thick, white vaginal discharge with the consistency of cottage cheese.
- Redness and swelling of the vagina and vulva.
- Small cuts or tiny cracks in the skin of the vulva because of friable skin in the area.
- A burning feeling when you urinate.
In some cases, another symptom of a vaginal yeast infection can be pain during sex.
If I’m pregnant, can a yeast infection hurt my developing baby?
No, but you do need to see your health care professional for treatment. Also, some treatments currently on the market, such as fluconazole (Diflucan), are not recommended during pregnancy. Be sure your health care professional and pharmacist are both aware that you are or may be pregnant.
What is the risk of self-treating yeast infection for women who are pregnant or nursing or those who have diabetes or HIV?
First, women who are pregnant or have diabetes or HIV have a higher risk of developing a yeast infection. Second, and most important, these woman, as well as nursing mothers, should always see their health care professional if they suspect a yeast infection rather than self-treat because yeast medications may interfere with medications needed for their other health problems (HIV, diabetes) or pose risks for the baby. See: How to Use Yoghurt To Treat Yeast Infections